FORMER MIDDLE EASTERN EMPLOYEE TAKES KNOWLEDGEONE TO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION FOR JOB DISCRIMINATION
Montreal, January 27, 2017 — A former employee with KnowledgeOne Inc. has filed a complaint of discrimination and harassment based on race, ethnic origin and sexual orientation against the organization.
Mounir (not the Victim's real name), a brown man in his twenties who is originally from the Middle East and who is of mixed race, was hired by KnowledgeOne in a managerial position in August 2015.
KnowledgeOne is the exclusive learning developer for Concordia University's online accredited courses for both eConcordia and Concordia's Centre for Continuing Education. Senior managers at Concordia University are involved in KnowledgeOne.
In the first week on the job, Mounir experienced numerous practices deemed to be unusual and discriminatory. For instance, during his job interview, there were many questions related to his physical characteristics and ethnic and religious backgrounds, such as whether his beard was “because you are Muslim”. Once hired, Mounir realized his job functions did not match his job description and that both his title and role were subject to change.
Problems continued when his employment needs were not taken seriously, the hiring promises unmet, and unwelcome jokes and slurs by colleagues and superiors began, creating a toxic work environment. For example, when provided with an office without window coverings, Mounir's superior dismissed the issue saying he need not worry about a sunburn since he was already dark enough.
Colleagues and superiors perceived the way Mounir dressed as an indication that he was homosexual, and subsequently made fun with comments such as, “(Mounir) can be a really cute gay brown guy, a rare type!” These colleagues also made comments on his outfits with the purpose of making fun of him as a brown man who, in their eyes, dressed too nice to be straight.
He was often treated like an outsider, left out of internal communication emails and blatantly ignored and excluded from meetings by a group of co-workers.
On other occasions, his background was specifically targeted. For example, a colleague made fun of him and his native country in front of the office staff when he brought a cake in celebration of his home country's national holiday.
This discriminatory treatment by his superiors and colleagues had such a negative effect on his work environment that he chose to work on weekends and evenings, when others were not in the office.
Despite Mounir's good work performance, his job was terminated in December 2015 for two unfounded reasons, one of which being the unauthorized entry in a manager's office (which he disputed with a witness). He was not informed of his firing until several weeks later.
Following notice of dismissal, Mounir was not allowed to retrieve his personal belongings from his office and was even banned from the premises. Finally, after a written intervention to the employer from CRARR, Mounir received his personal effects by bailiff.
After losing his job, Mounir experienced significant financial and psychological pressures. He was forced to drop out of a semester due to loss of income, which caused him to lose the entire academic year and has faced difficulty and prejudice finding a new job in his area of expertise.
Last Fall, he learned that the other colleagues of Middle-Eastern and North African backgrounds who worked for KnowledgeOne Inc. also left the organization since his dismissal.
Believing that his perceived sexuality and his racial and ethnic background were important factors in the negative treatment he encountered at work and in his dismissal, Mounir sought help from the CSU Legal Information Clinic, which referred his case to CRARR. His case was brought to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission in July 2016.
In addition to claiming moral and punitive damages plus material damages to be determined for loss of employment and inconvenience, CRARR is also demanding a “policy against discrimination in the workplace, to be approved by the Commission, a training program for managers on equality and (….) mandatory training for the latter on such requirements.”
The case is going ahead at the Commission.